REFLECTION: The passing of tradition PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 21 September 2014 14:34



TRADITIONS are important in our life. They are like structures that help us cope with the different necessities of life.

They have been built up from the common experiences of a person and of a society and are passed on from generation to generation.

That’s what tradition means. It’s a matter of handing down certain shared attitudes, practices, lifestyles from one generation to the next. It’s a continuing process that parallels and supports life itself.

Traditions can be personal, family, social, political, historical, cultural, and of course, religious that are in fact the most important. In other words, they correspond to our human needs taken either individually or collectively, spiritually or materially. In short, they cover all aspects of our life.

Traditions help keep life going, facilitating the performance of certain duties and the attainment of certain goals and ideals. They give some consistency to our life, and a reassuring sense of direction and fulfillment.

Since our identity as a person and as a people is often qualified by the traditions we practice, we need to make sure that we have good and healthy traditions, refining and polishing them along the way, or otherwise starting new ones as circumstances warrant.

New traditions somehow are born spontaneously. A certain spirit or ethos must be behind its making after a number of factors and relevant elements come together. There are also those that are quite deliberately engineered. But no new tradition comes about unless it has at least the tacit approval of the majority of the people.

Traditions also form some kind of basis or ground on which a person and a society grows and develops. They can be part of the raw material used for growth. Practically no one and no society can live without some tradition in place in their system. No one starts to develop from absolute zero. He has to begin somewhere.

Yes, traditions can define us as a person and as a people, but we have to make sure that we continue to define our traditions. We have to assert our dominion over tradition, and not the reverse, letting tradition to simply dominate us.

To do this, we have to realize first of all that traditions are a living thing, not something dead and inert. It requires a spirit, and we just have to give it one, making sure the spirit is the right one, and not just any spirit that can also easily come—the spirit of the world, or of the flesh, etc.

That spirit should correspond to who we really are—in accord to our dignity as persons created in the image and likeness of God and made children of his. We are not merely material, plant or animal beings. We are rational beings, and more than rational, we are spiritual beings also, inextricably meant for a supernatural end.

It’s when we treat our traditions like this that they become truly helpful. They would become true light and guide toward our ultimate end. We would understand traditions as something that needs to continue evolving.

They are never stagnant nor frozen. They require innovations and renewal, always adjusting to the changing signs of the times and seeking their proper context, setting and timing.

This is something we have to be most careful about, since we have the tendency to simply go on automatic pilot with regard the use of traditions. This blind adherence to traditions would lead us to be narrow-minded and to judge people and events according to some outdated criteria.

That’s when we start to empty our traditions of their living substance, leaving them as an empty shell. That’s when these traditions would lose attraction to the people, especially the young ones. That’s when traditions would get stuck with the previous, old generation, and would hardly have any impact on the new one.

The passing of traditions from one generation to another requires the proper distinction between what is essential in them and what are simply accidental, or between what their living substance is and their other dependent elements.

There is no doubt that for our traditions to continue living, relevant and effective in our lives, they have to be grounded on the ultimate source of life who is the eternal God himself, the creator of all things.

Traditions based on transient values will not last. Though we may start our traditions with an inadequate foundation, let’s work toward rooting them on their proper foundation.

Otherwise, Christ could accuse us: “Well do you make void the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition.” (Mk7,9)